(GUIDE) How To Cook Tamales In Pressure Cooker?

Tamales are a delicious and traditional Mexican dish made of masa dough filled with various fillings. Typically, they are wrapped in corn husks and steamed to perfection. However, using a pressure cooker can significantly speed up the cooking process while still ensuring delicious and perfectly cooked tamales. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the optimal cooking times, preparation tips, and various techniques to cook tamales in a pressure cooker.

Quick Answer: How Long To Cook Tamales In A Pressure Cooker

Cooking times for tamales in a pressure cooker may vary depending on the size and thickness of the tamales, as well as the pressure cooker’s model and settings. However, as a general guideline, it typically takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook tamales in a pressure cooker.


Before cooking tamales in a pressure cooker, there are a few essential steps you need to take for proper preparation:

  1. Soak the corn husks: If you are using dried corn husks to wrap your tamales, you need to soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes until they become pliable and easy to handle.

  2. Prepare the filling: Tamales can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as shredded chicken, beef, or cheese. Prepare your desired filling, making sure it is cooked and seasoned to your liking before assembling the tamales.

  3. Prepare the masa dough: Masa dough is the foundation of tamales. You can either make the dough from scratch or purchase pre-made masa dough from a grocery store. If making the dough from scratch, mix masa harina (a type of corn flour), lard or vegetable shortening, salt, and warm broth until a smooth dough forms.

  4. Assemble the tamales: Spread a thin layer of masa dough onto the center of a soaked corn husk, leaving enough space around the edges to fold it. Place a spoonful of the filling along the center of the dough. Carefully fold the sides of the corn husk to enclose the filling and secure it with a strip of corn husk or kitchen twine.

Pressure Cooker Basics For Tamales

Before diving into the cooking process, it’s crucial to understand some pressure cooker basics specifically applicable to cooking tamales:

  1. Liquid requirement: Pressure cookers require a minimum amount of liquid to function correctly. Typically, you will need to add about 1 to 2 cups of liquid, such as water or broth, to the pressure cooker before cooking tamales. The exact amount may vary depending on your pressure cooker’s instructions, so consult the manufacturer’s guidelines.

  2. Pressure release methods: Pressure cookers have two main pressure release methods: natural release and quick release. Natural release involves allowing the pressure to decrease naturally over a specified period. Quick release involves manually releasing the pressure by turning the release valve. For tamales, it is recommended to use the natural release method to prevent the tamales from bursting.

  3. Trivet or steaming basket: Some pressure cookers come with a trivet or steaming basket. These accessories are excellent for keeping the tamales elevated above the cooking liquid to prevent them from getting soggy. If your pressure cooker does not have a trivet or steaming basket, you can use a heat-safe plate or metal cookie cutter wrapped in foil to elevate the tamales.

Cook Times For Tamales In A Pressure Cooker

It’s crucial to determine the appropriate cook times for tamales in a pressure cooker to ensure they are thoroughly cooked and have a tender texture. Here are some general guidelines for different types of tamales:

  1. Chicken tamales: If you are making chicken tamales, pressure cooking them for around 20 to 25 minutes is typically sufficient to cook the chicken thoroughly and ensure a flavorful filling.

  2. Beef tamales: For beef tamales, the cook time may be slightly longer compared to chicken tamales. Pressure cook beef tamales for approximately 25 to 30 minutes to achieve tender and succulent beef filling.

  3. Cheese or vegetarian tamales: If you are making cheese or vegetarian tamales, the cook time can be reduced to approximately 15 to 20 minutes since there is no raw meat that needs to be cooked.

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It’s important to note that these cook times are estimates and can vary depending on the size, thickness, and density of your tamales. To ensure they are fully cooked, use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the tamales reaches 165°F (74°C).

How To Cook Tamales In A Pressure Cooker

Now that you are familiar with the preparation and cook times, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of cooking tamales in a pressure cooker:

  1. Add liquid to the pressure cooker: Start by adding about 1 to 2 cups of water or broth to the bottom of the pressure cooker. This will provide the necessary steam for cooking the tamales.

  2. Arrange tamales in the pressure cooker: Place a trivet, steaming basket, or a heat-safe plate wrapped in foil inside the pressure cooker. Carefully arrange the prepared tamales, open side up, on the trivet or plate. Make sure to leave some space between the tamales to allow steam to circulate during cooking.

  3. Close and seal the pressure cooker: Securely close the pressure cooker lid, ensuring it’s tightly sealed.

  4. Set the cooking time and pressure: Consult your pressure cooker’s instruction manual to adjust the cooking time and pressure settings according to the type and thickness of your tamales. As a general guideline, set the pressure to high and the cooking time to 20 to 30 minutes.

  5. Start the cooking process: Turn on the pressure cooker and set it to cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The pressure will build up inside the cooker, and the cooking process will begin once the desired pressure level is reached.

  6. Natural pressure release: Once the cooking time is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally. This process may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your pressure cooker. Avoid using the quick release method, as it may cause the tamales to burst.

  7. Open the pressure cooker: Once the pressure is fully released, carefully open the pressure cooker lid, ensuring that any remaining steam escapes safely away from your face. Remove the tamales from the pressure cooker using tongs or a spatula.

  8. Let the tamales rest: Let the cooked tamales rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows them to cool slightly and set, making them easier to handle.

Optimal Pressure Cooking Techniques For Tamales

Here are a few additional techniques to enhance the flavor and texture of your pressure-cooked tamales:

  1. Season the cooking liquid: To infuse extra flavor into your tamales, consider adding spices or seasonings to the cooking liquid. You can experiment with adding ingredients like garlic, onion, bay leaves, or spices like cumin and paprika.

  2. Customizing the masa dough: While traditional tamales use plain masa dough, you can add extra flavor to the dough by incorporating ingredients like cheese, diced jalapenos, or herbs like cilantro or oregano. This will add a delightful twist to your tamales.

  3. Browning the tamales: After pressure cooking, you can further enhance the texture and appearance of your tamales by browning them. To do this, remove the tamales from the pressure cooker and brush them with a little oil. Place them under a broiler for a few minutes until they develop a golden color.

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Sometimes, unexpected issues may arise when cooking tamales in a pressure cooker. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to help you overcome common challenges:

  1. Tamales are undercooked: If your tamales are not fully cooked after the recommended cook time, you can return them to the pressure cooker and cook them for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to reseal and build up pressure before continuing the cooking process.

  2. Tamales are overcooked: If your tamales become mushy or overcooked, reduce the cooking time for your next batch. Be mindful of the size and thickness of your tamales and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

  3. Tamales are sticking to the corn husks: If your tamales are sticking to the corn husks, it could be due to insufficient cooking time or lack of steam. Ensure that you have added enough liquid to the pressure cooker and that the tamales are cooked thoroughly.

Variations And Flavoring Options

While traditional tamales are delicious on their own, you can also experiment with various flavoring options to create unique and exciting variations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Sweet tamales: Instead of savory fillings, try adding sweet fillings like fruit preserves, chocolate, or nut butter. These sweet tamales make for a fantastic dessert or breakfast option.

  2. Spicy tamales: If you enjoy a bit of heat, add diced jalapenos or other hot peppers to your filling. You can also incorporate spicy seasonings into the masa dough for an extra kick.

  3. Seafood tamales: Replace traditional meat fillings with seafood like shrimp, crab, or fish. These seafood tamales create a light and flavorful variation.

  4. Vegetarian or vegan tamales: Swap out meat fillings for vegetables, beans, or vegan protein options like tofu or seitan. These tamales are perfect for those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

In conclusion, cooking tamales in a pressure cooker is an excellent way to save time while still achieving delicious and perfectly cooked results. By following proper preparation techniques, adjusting cook times, and exploring various flavoring options, you can create a wide variety of tamales that will delight your taste buds and impress your friends and family. So, grab your pressure cooker and get ready to enjoy a tasty and authentic Mexican meal!


What Is A Pressure Cooker?

A pressure cooker is a kitchen appliance that uses steam pressure to cook food quickly and efficiently.

Can I Cook Tamales In A Pressure Cooker?

Yes, you can cook tamales in a pressure cooker. In fact, it is a popular and convenient way to make them.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Tamales In A Pressure Cooker?

The cooking time for tamales in a pressure cooker can vary depending on the type and size of tamales. On average, it takes about 30 minutes for small tamales and 45 minutes for larger ones.

What Is The Best Type Of Pressure Cooker To Use For Cooking Tamales?

Any type of pressure cooker can be used to cook tamales, but a stovetop pressure cooker may be easier to control and adjust the pressure.

Do I Need Any Special Equipment To Cook Tamales In A Pressure Cooker?

No, you do not need any special equipment to cook tamales in a pressure cooker. However, you will need a steamer basket or rack to keep the tamales elevated and out of the water. Alternatively, you can use foil or parchment paper to wrap the tamales and place them in the pressure cooker.